China Copper Trader Liu May Be Scapegoat for Weak Risk Controls

The copper plot thickens …

Liu Qibing, the Chinese copper trader whose wrong-way bets left his government with an estimated $300 million in losses, scored 90 out of 100 in a course on international investing at Wuhan University.

The son of farmers from the central province of Hubei is now at the center of a scandal that has reverberated from Beijing to London. He’s under house arrest and hasn’t been heard from since mid-October, a government newspaper reported. Liu, 37, was “low-profile” during his college days, says classmate Xiong Shenjie.

The case shows disclosure and risk controls at Chinese agencies haven’t kept pace with the economic boom that has made the country the world’s biggest copper consumer and No. 2 oil user, analysts and traders say. Liu’s losses resulted from his “personal actions,” an unidentified government official said in the state-owned China Daily.

“It’s hard to imagine Liu could have done what he did 100 percent without the knowledge of his superiors,” says Gavin Wendt, a commodities analyst at Fat Prophets Fund Management in Sydney. “There was some form of negligence. The superiors may think they can save face by shifting responsibility to one individual.”

Liu has been under house arrest since mid-October, the Economic Observer, a state-owned newspaper based in the eastern province of Shandong, reported Nov. 21, without citing anyone. Phone calls to the media-relations department of the Public Security Bureau in Beijing, which oversees the police, weren’t answered. Liu didn’t pick up calls to his mobile-phone and home numbers.

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